John N. Friedman: Using Big Data to Improve Children's Economic Opportunity: Evidence from Higher Education


Monday, April 16, 2018, 12:15pm to 1:30pm


Land Hall (B-400)

John N. Friedman, Associate Professor of Economics, Brown University.

John N. FriedmanAbstract. Researchers have proposed many policies to address dramatic gaps in long-term economic outcomes across children from different backgrounds, but most such suggestions typically impute national estimates to local settings with minimal adjustment. New advances in big data offer an alternative approach, in which researchers can leverage the precision and identification in large datasets to provide more reliable local estimates.

This presentation develops this idea in the context of policies to promote access and success for students in higher education in America. We analyze anonymized tax records for all children born in the US between 1980-1991 to estimate upward mobility rates for each college. These results suggest that schools differ greatly in their ability to attract talented students from poor backgrounds and/or increase outcomes for such students who attend.

We also highlight the potential for policy changes to affect these outcomes at both the student- and college-level, although the affects of the same policy will differ importantly across colleges.

Though the talk will be considerably broader, this seminar will draw in part on "Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility."
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About the speaker

John N. Friedman is Associate Professor of Economics and International Affairs and Public Policy at Brown University. His research brings together theory and data, harnessing the power of large administrative datasets to yield policy-relevant insights on a wide range of topics, including taxation, healthcare, and education quality.

His work has appeared in top academic journals as well as in major media outlets. His most well-known papers estimate the long-term effects of teachers on student outcomes such as college attendance and earnings; in just one year, a great teacher can raise the lifetime earnings of a single class of students by nearly $1.5 million. This work was cited by President Obama in his 2012 State of the Union Address.

Friedman has also worked as special assistant to the President for economic policy at the National Economic Council in the White House from 2013-2014. In 2014, he was named an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow. He holds a PhD in economics, an AM in statistics, and a BA in economics, all from Harvard University. He is a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Learn more about John N. Friedman's research


See also: Spring 2018